Visible Religion | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Visible Religion


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Shadow puppetry is a venerable and popular way of retelling myths and other folk legends on the islands of Bali and Java, and gamelan music has always been a part of the tradition. In the multimedia show Visible Religion, director Kent Devereaux has assembled a group of American and Indonesian artists for a cross-cultural treatment of a tale from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The production has a few Western twists, including episodes from Greek mythology and Dante's Inferno, and it blends Javanese puppetry, performed in front of a screen, with the Balinese style, which hides the puppeteer behind the screen. This reimagined version of the story of Bima, a minor Hindu deity introduced to the islands by seafaring traders more than a millennium ago, is narrated in Balinese, Javanese, and English. The gamelan accompaniment, written by Javanese composer Tony Prabowo and American Jarrad Powell, will be handled by the highly respected 15-member Seattle ensemble Gamelan Pacifica (with the usual complement of knobbed gongs, xylophone, cymbals, two-stringed fiddles, and flute). Two renowned masters, Java's Sri Djoko Rahardja and Bali's I Made Sidia, are in charge of the puppets. Chicagoan John Boesche is responsible for the visual design, which includes slide projections and other modern touches. Friday and Saturday at 8 PM, Sunday at 3 and 7:30 PM, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted, 335-1650 or 663-1628. $20. A discussion and demonstration of gamelan will be led by the show's creators on Saturday, October 1, from 3 to 4:30 PM at Steppenwolf. Free; for information, call 663-1628.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment